Disability Accommodations

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed October 2022

What if a disability makes it hard for you to meet DHCD rules or use DHCD services?

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires DHCD to provide equal access to programs and services to qualified people with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. § 12132.

Under the ADA, you are a person with a disability if you have a physical or mental disability that substantially impairs a major life activity, such as learning, understanding, walking, working, breathing, or caring for yourself. You do not have to be receiving any disability benefits to be qualified as disabled under the ADA. A temporary health problem like a broken leg may not be a disability under the ADA.

If a disability makes it hard for you to meet DHCD rules or use DHCD services, you can ask DHCD and/or your shelter to grant exceptions to the rules or modify the services. These are called “reasonable modifications” or “reasonable accommodations” under the ADA.

Example 1

Because of your disability, you need extra time or help getting information to DHCD. DHCD should give you the extra time or help.

Example 2

You have trouble reading because of a learning disability. DHCD and its providers should regularly explain the rules and notices to you and, if they did not explain a notice on a timely basis, give you more time to take action in response to it.

Example 3

You use a wheelchair. DHCD should place you in a shelter where you can use your wheelchair, and the shelter should not make you do activities that you cannot do because of your disability.

Example 4

Your child has an anxiety disorder that makes it hard for them to be around other people. DHCD should place you in a shelter where they do not have to be with many other people, such as a motel or a scattered site.

Example 5

You have a disability that prevents you from getting or keeping a job and, as a result, you have no money to save after paying for medicine, clothes and other basic needs. DHCD should not terminate your shelter benefits if you cannot save 30% of your net income.

If you need special help or an exception to a rule because of a disability, you should tell your DHCD worker or their supervisors. The worker should then fill out a form called a “Request for an ADA Accommodation.” DHCD may ask for a copy of medical records or other evidence of the disability, or permission to contact a doctor or other professional who can verify your disability. You may also need the doctor or other professional to document the connection between the disability and the special help or exception you are requesting.

Advocacy Tips

  • If you need special help or an exception to rules because of a disability, be sure you or your DHCD worker fills out a "Request for an ADA Accommodation" form or write a letter to DHCD asking for the help you need. See a copy of the ADA Request form. ADA requests can be sent directly to ADA Coordinators by emailing [email protected], or by faxing it to 617-573-1578.
  • Shelter providers are also required to make accommodations for your disability. Ask your shelter provider for reasonable accommodations or modifications as needed. Tell your DHCD worker if you think the provider is wrongly denying your request and consult an advocate.

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

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